Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf is connected to the mainland by ferries that set off every half hour during working hours. This gives the small group of practitioners based there easy access to the Auckland CBD.
According to ferry operator Fullers, Waiheke Island boasts “92 square kilometres of pristine beaches, stunning coastal headlands, vineyards, olive groves and seaside”.
It’s easy to see how living and working on the island wouldn’t be a chore.
Todd Greenwood has called it home for 17 years and, for the past four years, this has been his work location too.
Last month he established his own general practice, Greenwood Law.
Mr Greenwood says the semi-rural environment attracted him to Waiheke.
“It’s like living in a small town in provincial New Zealand; you have a permanent community of about 9,000 people spread out over a large geographical area in a unique situation on an island just 35 minutes away from the Auckland CBD. It’s a stunning place.
“You are recognised within the community, and you are often recognised in the public areas such as in the supermarket, at the petrol station or at a restuarant and so on.
“So there is a familiarity and a connection with a small community in the same way that occurs in the provincial towns. It is very similar to my experience as a police constable in small towns like Oamaru and Gore.”
Without an office, Mr Greenwood has a cordial way of connecting with his clients.
“I normally visit clients in their homes or over a coffee in a beachside cafe. I am able to connect with their domestic environment and with their personalities when visiting a client’s home.
“In addition, a lot of instructions come via phone or email, so the need to meet a client to progress matters sometimes doesn’t come till later on in the piece, and sometimes it’s not necessary at all.”
He says that the public transport system ensures he can carry out his court duties on the other side of the Hauraki Gulf efficiently.
“Waiheke is very convenient, the ferries run every 30 minutes and that gets me to the Auckland courts seamlessly, and the rail system also enables me to get to Waitakere and Manukau courts without any difficulty.”
Big city blues
Brett Carpenter has a logical and simple reason for working on the island: “It’s not Auckland.”
“I’ve got a 35-minute boatride for a commute and I just love it; it’s a great place to live.
“We moved out of Auckland in 1999 because we got sick of it, moved to Hawke’s Bay, where we bought a bit of land, developed a vineyard, and kept our day jobs.
“We have some grandchildren up here, so decided to move back. But we didn’t want to return to Auckland, we’d had enough of it, so we moved to Waiheke, and it was the correct choice.”
Mr Carpenter, who specialises in tax and trusts, does consulting work three days a week for Queen City Law in the CBD.
He says the only disadvantage of working on Waiheke is that the solitude is interrupted during the summer months when “Aucklanders come over en masse”.
The knock-on effect
Anthony Fraser has been on the island for more than 20 years. He previously had offices in Parnell and Epsom but now operates from Oneroa while also seeing clients at his home in Auckland.
Mr Fraser, who works in several areas of law, but mainly property and commercial, says the social demographic on Waiheke has changed over that time.
“There’s now a lot more property work on the island,” says Mr Fraser.
“When I arrived the baches were largely quite modest and hadn’t seen any improvement for a number of years.
“When those baches began rising in value many bach owners sold them, and the new owners did them up and then sold them on and it’s been moving that way ever since.
“So while the social fabric may have changed, the geography hasn’t and it remains a lovely working environment,” he says.
Keeping her hand in
Like Todd Greenwood, Judith Walshe spends a fair bit of time in court in Auckland.
The barrister sole and her dentist husband Liam came up from Christchurch in May last year to retire, but she found she could easily continue to work part-time.
“I use the ferry, which is free if you have a gold card, and I then walk up to the Auckland District Court which is five blocks up the hill. It means I get to meet up with people and get exercise, so it works very well,” says Mrs Walshe.
“Being new to the Auckland court I have found the people in the court to be very helpful and there are plenty of meeting rooms. But I also have found the criminal courts up here are very rehabilition-centred and have a variety of courts for different purposes.
“Everyone is very collaborative, and for what I am doing it works, but if I had a big full-time load I would need chambers in town. However, for my small workload it works very well. I have a home office and do my paperwork from there, although I can also check my files on the ferry and make phone calls.
“Waiheke is the perfect place because it is very much a holiday place. Our children and grand-children love it, and it’s just over half an hour away from the central city.”
Mrs Walshe says while she felt a bit isolated at first she has quickly got to meet a lot of people and become a part of the community.
Facts and figures
The 2013 Census recorded 8,238 people who usually live on Waiheke Island. This is expected to have increased to near or above 9,000.
The median age is 45.2 years; the median age in Auckland is 35.1 years. And 18.5% of people on Waiheke are aged 65 years and over, compared with 11.5% of the total Auckland population.
Ethnically, the island is far less diverse than Auckland as a whole.
While 59.3% of the population in Auckland is Pākehā, it rises to 90.5% in Waiheke. The Māori population is slightly higher than Auckland – 11.4% compared to 10.7% across the region. But only 2.9% of those living on Waiheke are Pacific peoples compared to 14.6% in Auckland.
After English the next most spoken language is French (3.7%).
The island was rated the fifth best region to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best In Travel 2016 publication.